Every once in a while I post something to this blog that takes off in a way I don't foresee. I've never had a post go "viral," if that means page views in the millions, but I occasionally have one that gets way more hits than usual. Such a post was last week's "Romney the bully," which, at 589 page views, is now at four times my average. Since that average includes some other posts that have been read even more widely, the reality is that "Romney the bully" has been read by about six times as many people as normally read one of my posts.
The reason is clear: It was shared repeatedly by friends who agreed with it, many of whose friends shared it in turn. Many, but not all, of those friends were women. Some clearly thought I had articulated something particularly important, and said so in their forwarding messages. I can thus confirm what I said in that post: I am far from the only person who found Mitt Romney's behavior at last week's debate to be personally abusive. Many others read what I wrote and said: "Yes; that's exactly what I thought." We may be a small group or we may represent a broadly shared opinion - it's too early to tell - but the fact that we shared the same experience means that that experience was real.
A few comments on the blog shares were also revealing. One person said that personally, she considered Barack Obama to be one of the biggest bullies she has ever encountered, and that by contrast she finds Mitt Romney to be a compassionate leader. Another said that my reactions, and those of others, were clearly dictated by emotion. The implication was that all of our reactions were somehow not valid, while those of more rational thinkers are.
I want to take this occasion to clarify that I know my reaction to Romney's performance was based on emotion. THAT WAS THE POINT. Watching Mitt Romney in action set off emotional responses that harked back to the years of bullying I endured in school, while it reminded others of abusive partners. All of us realized that, for personal reasons that have nothing to do with his policy positions, we profoundly do not want to have this man as our president.
Since I have never seen Barack Obama bully anybody in person, I suspect that those who see him as a bully are reacting to his policies and the way he has enacted them. Yes, asking religious employers to include birth control in the health insurance they offer employees can be seen as abusive if you are so inclined. Passing the Affordable Care Act without a single Republican vote can be seen as an abuse of power by those who opposed its passage.
Such actions, though, are not bullying. Bullying is something that happens at a personal level between individuals, and it is a matter of style, not substance. Mitt Romney could have spent the entire hour and a half talking about chewing gum and toothpaste and his behavior - if he had pushed the other two participants around in the same way - would still have struck me as abusive. This is a man who apparently terrorized one of his classmates at school and who, when reminded of that behavior earlier this year, said: “There’s no question that I did some stupid things in high school, and
obviously, if I hurt anyone by virtue of that, I would be very sorry for
it and apologize for it.” This is a lame, conditional statement with no substance. It shows no contrition, no awareness of wrongdoing beyond the usual run of youthful indiscretions, and notably, contains no apology.
It's not surprising, therefore, that the bullying persona is still very much in evidence. An unrepentant bully has no business being president.